Professional Services Augmentation is a nontraditional approach benefiting organizations large and small, that are focused on accomplishing long-term strategic goals for their company and end users in a shorter amount of time. Through the utilization of Professional Services Augmentation Specialists, organizations can acquire skills, certifications, and expertise at an overall lower cost, decrease the time to deploy changes, enhance the knowledge of their current team, and provide a consistent approach to multiple project efforts resulting in several efficiency gains.
Imagine you are renovating a house. You walk through and make a list of the changes you want. In your mind, you have a vision of the house you want at completion. Based on the work needed, you determine that you want to make some of the changes yourself, as you live in the house. This methodology allows the home owner in need of renovations to reduce costs and provide an opportunity to learn from the contractors by lowering costs and self-enabling future repairs. You are putting off some of the remodel tasks until next year, due to budget constraints and you do not have the full budget for all the changes at the present time.
You scrap together funding for your initial project list, and you decide to start working on the kitchen first. You contact a few plumbers to price out repairs to your leaky pipes. Then you reach out to a few cabinet makers who can redesign the cabinets and counter tops, to give you the open layout with more storage, and you decided that installing the hardwood floors yourself makes financial sense instead of contracting that out.
Upon completion of these two projects, the pipes are no longer leaking in the kitchen, the new cabinets are installed, and the new flooring is nearing completion. The focus naturally shifts onto the next room. Here is where you start running into some issues. When you investigate the laundry room further, you see that the leaky pipes recently fixed in the kitchen were also leaking in the laundry. This means that you need to bring the plumber back to fix the laundry room pipes, and he needs to fix the mold problem that was caused by the ongoing water pooling on the drywall. Additionally, you may also need to remove some of your new flooring to investigate further plumbing issues leading to the adjoining bathroom.
So why are we bringing up home repairs, if we’re supposed to be talking about IT services?
As most of us know when undergoing large-scale home remodel or repairs, it is best practice to engage someone like a General Contractor or an Architect. An industry specialist will ensure all the potential issues and typical pitfalls are identified well ahead time, reducing costs and re-do costs. The Specialist will ensure all factors have been accounted for, the proper sequence of work is lined up, all regulations are considered, and that the project is completed on time and within budget.
The same methodology and principles apply to IT Services. When determining how to streamline or scale your IT environment, it is important to ensure that you engage with a professional that specializes in Professional Services Augmentation.
So, what is a Professional Services Augmentation?
Professional Services Augmentation (PSA) is a practice of engaging IT professionals to review, design, update, and continuously refine your technology environment. Essentially a PSA Provider is your IT General Contractor and Architect. There are many companies that will provide designs, health check, or assessments. They will provide recommendations for your basic and immediate IT needs, but a PSA is an ongoing relationship where a customer and IT provider engage in not just engineering tasks, but continuous feedback and goal setting initiatives.
How does Professional Services Augmentation work?
A PSA can vary across providers, to accommodate for the constantly evolving IT practices and specialty industry environments. Typically, a Technologies company will perform a review of your environment. From there, the provider should set a regular schedule with you to discuss your organizational goals, your IT specific goals, your budget, your tolerance to change and the impact on users, specialty regulations for your industry or business, and any approval and change control processes currently in place.
That initial assessment, and ongoing discussions, result in a work plan, which includes a primary resource for all engineering and technical management for your environment. That technical consultant retains the knowledge of your account and goals, and communicates that out to the extended team, any additional Engineers or subcontractors on the account.
When utilizing a PSA provider, ensure you have a consistent technical resource across all projects, that can appropriately communicate the status of your account and pipeline of projects, at any given time. A PSA should not be a typical outsourced agreement where your information goes into a database and you have a random account rep answer calls and emails when you have questions. The purpose of a PSA is to add skills to your current technical line-up, which would include the ability to immediately address an issue or act as your company’s representative on calls with other external providers. Do not settle for just a help desk solution. Instead, supplement your support team with a focused IT strategy and resourcing with a short and long-range focus.
How does that differ from a project and project management?
The aim of a PSA is to continuously update, monitor, and refine your entire environment, to meet and exceed end-user expectations. This includes the current needs of IT and the big picture organizational goals. While that does include projects and Project Managers, PSAs are a continuous process rather than just a defined project with strict start and completion dates.
Think of the Pointillism paintings made famous by Georges Seurat. In Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the elegant depiction of a lovely river bank both simultaneously peaceful and full of activity.
A closer look at the gentleman lounging in the shade in the bottom right corner of the scene is needed. From a slight distance, you see defined brush strokes, but upon further review, you can see that the entire painting is made up of small dots.
To put that in terms of your IT environment, each of those dots is a task or criteria that needs to be achieved. A Project Manager can come in and help you define what the specific project or in this case, what this figure needs to look like. They can ensure their team includes the pipe detail, has the correct posture and clothing to convey the look and feel that you want, and can make certain the work on that figure is complete. Note, that is just one figure, or project effort.
That man smoking his pipe and relaxing in the shade, overlaps with the distinguished gentleman sitting with his top hat, and the young lady working on her needlepoint. A couple of questions come to bear in this situation: Does the exact same team know how to accommodate for those variables? Are the tasks outlined so that there is no rework needed on the original figure? And, is that same team able to also paint the scenery, the animals, and the activities with that same Pointillism approach? The answer will probably be ‘No’, simply because each of us is good at varying things.
The Professional Services Augmentation approach provides an Engineer and an Engagement Manager that are constantly aware of the bigger picture. This team can direct the project efforts and extended team toward the grander vision of a completed masterpiece, rather than a few singular projects or figures.
Why engage in Professional Services Augmentation, rather than hiring internal resources?
There are significant advantages that can be realized by engaging with a PSA provider. Here are just a few reasons that you may want to augment your staff:
- Holistic Approach – With a PSA, you have a single point of contact, that manages your IT needs and ensures that all work performed ties into your company goals and long-term strategy. This requires ongoing communication with internal and external technical teams, continuous integration of changing business requirements, communication with third parties that vary in technical acumen from expert to layperson, and an ability to manage not just projects but a pipeline of work that can span years. Typically, this is not work that a company resource wants to perform.
- Reduced Learning Curve – Instead of on boarding a new or existing employee to project task each time, the PSA moves thoughtfully onto the next subject matter area, and the customer is provided a consistent resource already familiar with the network, the infrastructure, and the nuances.
- Speed of Execution – This is what a PSA provider does, they plan and perform large-scale IT engagements, utilizing their team of specialized experts to efficiently execute the tasks. They have a relationship with vendors that provide immediate access for troubleshooting. They are not distracted by other end-user or customer requests.
- Access to Certifications – Niche specialty areas, and years of expertise for multiple engineers and consultants are afforded to you. This is an important factor when considering the alternative of having to pay to get your employees certified, trained and ramped up, or retaining their expertise.
- Knowledge Transfer – As each project and initiative is completed the transfer of knowledge from the engineer to your internal team can be invaluable. Often found with augmentation, the frequency of knowledge transfers across several initiatives, can provide your current employees with ongoing educational opportunities, resulting in higher employee satisfaction.
- Evolving Industry Standards and Regulatory Requirements – All your team members have daily job tasks, that could prevent them from the continuous education and research required to stay on top of the constantly evolving requirements for your regulatory and business sector. Additionally, they may not have the ability to stay engaged with experts in the field, to ensure they are aware of the best practices in each area. With a PSA, you have access to those industry experts and best practices, as many of those Engineers are the individuals that are helping to set the trends in IT.
- Total Cost of Ownership – An important factor to consider for a project effort or major initiative that can be significantly reduced with augmentation. If you do hire internal specialist, you have costs associated with the salary, benefits, training (not just this employee but time taken away from other initiatives, tasks and duties as they get up to speed), certification, and education. These factors can add up.
- Flexibility – PSA hours are adaptable to your specific business situation and work cycles, so you do not need to worry about downsizing or immediately scaling, as your business needs change. If a new initiative or project arises, the PSA can adapt on the fly.
So, going back to our original example, with the home remodel. If we had engaged with a General Contractor, then we can clearly see that we could have saved some time, money, and frustration. This exactly mirrors how you should approach your IT environment, if you want to achieve your goals.
Here are the usual expectations of a General Contractor for a home remodel:
- Provide a plan to meet all stated owner goals
- Manages relationships with experts or subcontractors
- Provide work logs, communications, permits, and evidence of work completion
- Reduces rework required as each major project is completed, by updating plans
- Have the relationships and expertise required to identify the work needed and how it can be completed efficiently
- Ensure projects are completed on time and on budget.
These are the same expectations you should when executing your long-term IT strategy.
Professional Services Augmentation is not meant to threaten the employment of current internal resources, but rather to enhance and increase the effectiveness or your current team and reduce the to do list of your project efforts. In the remodel example, you were going to live in the home as repairs were taking place, and you were going to reduce costs by completing some of those tasks yourself. You can expect to engage with a PSA provider in the same manner. One of their goals should be to minimize the impact of changes, allowing you to live in the current environment as updates are made.
Additionally, augmented resource providers are extensions of your team, and as such should be able to map out work dependencies and communicate requirements so that you and your employees can also complete work, in conjunction with the augmented resource updates.
Professional Services Augmentation, when utilized appropriately, can greatly benefit an organization by enhancing current skill sets, reducing costs, and drastically cutting implementation timelines. In an ever-changing IT climate, where evolving standards and regulations must be weighed against cost and user impact, a PSA can be used to reduce the burden on internal IT staff members while also increasing their overall job satisfaction.
For additional information on Professional Services Augmentation, please email: info@eGroup-us.com.